Tuesday, 20 April 1999

Ed Byrne, 20 April 1999

Ed Byrne at Athenaeum 1 until April 25, 1999
Melbourne International Comedy FEstival
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It ain't over till the skinny Irish guy sings, says the old opera adage. Irish comic, Ed Byrne manages to create a fabulous comedy routine out of Mozart's opera, Cosi Fan Tutti.

Byrne has the easy, witty patter we expect from the Irish and seems to be liked by both men and women, youngies and oldies in the audience. He is, in his own words, "What Hanson will look like in five years"; presumably he means lean, fair and sweet-faced.

His entire seventy minutes is constructed around the framework of his personal story about being dragged screaming by his girlfriend to see Cosi on St. Patrick's Day, their anniversary. The topic, he says, is "the things we do for love," but might well be, "The things we do to catch our lovers cheating on us."

Byrne is intelligent and articulate but never patronises or under-estimates his audience. He has mastered the art of re-incorporation. He takes detours from his opera story at the Shaftesbury Theatre where the arty set sit in comfort and Byrne himself turns into a complete yobbo.

He meanders into material about chick flicks (costume dramas) and guy flicks (car chases and explosion), bad 80's fashion (remember leg warmers?) and he apologises for River Dance.

He rants about people who talk during movies and about women who compare boyfriends. He complains about US bars which have banned smoking and the Americans lack of an irony gland.

But his satirical angle on Cosi Fan Tutti is hilarious. The stories in opera are always idiotic but Byrne makes this one sound like the worst kind of daytime soap opera. He cunningly weaves contemporary relationship references into the Mozart narrative about two men who accept a bet to test their fiancees' fidelity by disguising themselves as Albanians - yes, Albanians- very romantic.

The utter absurdity of the singing, the characters, the disguises, the bet, the time lines, everything is ridiculed. The thought of seeing the Australian Opera doing Mozart next week is turning into a parody of itself.

One gag about being skinny nearly brought the house down around him. Ed Byrne really cheered me up. If he can make this reviewer laugh after twenty-something comedy shows, he must be good.

by Kate Herbert

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